Budding Authors
by Suz suzvoy@yahoo.com

Disclaimer - "Bother," said Pooh, as he was assimilated by the Para-Borg.

Okay, some sections of this are smaller than others...but it's what came out when I was typing :::shrugs::: And that may not make much sense, but it should do after you read the story.

Rated PG-13 for a teeny bit of bad language.


"I'll never hurt you," he promised, but he did. Like so many others before him. Like I knew he would.

And now...all that remains of him are the few dry petals of a rose, resting on my bedside table collecting dust.


"How's the novel coming Captain?"

Kathryn jerked as if she had been woken from a deep slumber, gasping loudly and instinctively whacking the padd face down on the table. "FinethankyouNeelix," she quickly responded, desperately hoping he hadn't seen what she was writing. Then his words sunk in. Her head craned around and up to see him looking at her, the smile on his face brighter than the ridiculous apron he wore.

"How do you know what I'm writing?"

The grin became bigger, which she would have never thought possible. Perhaps it was something to do with Talaxian physiology.

"Oh come now Captain...as morale officer it's my job to know these things."

She glared at him, trying not to smile. She pointed to the chair opposite hers. "Sit."

He did obediently. She half expected him to woof. "Spill it," she ordered.

Neelix frowned before glancing down warily at the mug next to her right hand. "Well I will if you absolutely *insist* Captain, but my understanding is that you're quite fond of your coffee. Not to mention the mess it will make-"

"No Neelix," she interrupted with a wave of her hand "what I meant was that I want you to tell me how you heard about my novel."

"Ohhhhhhhhh...." he rested his forearms on the table and linked his hands and fingers together. Leaning forward he whispered "...alright, I'll tell you. But you didn't hear it from me, okay?"

God he looked so ridiculous. She smirked, and leaned towards him. "Of course Neelix. I would never do anything to disrupt your spy network."

He glanced around the mess hall with a forced casualness that was so obvious that if anyone would have been looking at him at that moment they would have known immediately that he was up to something. Instead of looking back at her afterwards, he stared out of the viewport as he spoke. "Well it seems that a certain Lieutenant managed to catch a glimpse of your padd as he walked by earlier."

Kathryn frowned and her hand paused as it went to pick up her mug. "How long have I been here?"

"Almost four hours now."

"Four!? No wonder I didn't notice him. I've been so absorbed with working on my story..."

"And how is it going?"

"Pretty well actually Neelix. In fact I'm almost finished."

"When do we get to read it?" he asked, finally moving his gaze back to her.

She took a sip of her coffee. "You don't."

"You can't keep us in suspense Captain. We're all dying to read it!"

Kathryn sighed and shook her head. "Does the entire crew know about this?"

He shifted in his chair. "Just about."

An idea sprang into her mind and she gulped down the last of her coffee before smiling at him again. "Tell you what Neelix, if you can find a way that I can show this to everyone but *still* remain anonymous, I'll do it."

"Thank you Captain!" his voice was filled with enthusiasm. "I can't wait to read it."

He seemed happy about the prospect, which certainly wasn't unusual behaviour for Neelix, but he seemed a little *too* happy. "Why are you so eager to read it?"

Neelix looked rather flustered before replying. "Well...that lieutenant-"

"Cut this 'Lieutenant' business Neelix. We both know very well that it was Tom."

"-told us some of the words he saw on your padd." He looked away, embarrassed.

"And what words did he 'see'?" Kathryn demanded, hoping for once that her growing paranoia was unjustified.

"Well...," he coughed "the phrase 'throbbing love muscle' was used, although we all thought he was joking."


"Good morning Voyager, and welcome to A Briefing With Neelix!"

The Talaxian stood in front of the camera with a melon in one hand, and a cucumber in the other. "We have a lot of fun planned for today's programme, including the course you've all been waiting for - how to chop food! That's the reason for these," he said, raising the objects he held "I'm going to show you how to chop foods of all different shapes and sizes." He placed the melon on the counter, still holding onto the cucumber. "But first...a competition!" he smiled and pointed the vegetable at the camera. "Have you ever thought of yourself as a budding author? Well, we're holding a competition for the best romantic story. We're keeping it completely anonymous, so unless you want to tell us who you are when you submit your story there won't be any actual prizes. After all the stories have been submitted, everyone on the crew will get a chance to read them and vote for their favourite. The results will be posted of course, so even if you don't get a prize you'll have the satisfaction of knowing you won. That is...providing you're the lucky person who won. I won't be writing a story myself as I'll be in charge of calculating the votes, and we don't want me being accused of cheating, now do we? A full listing of rules can be found in the ships computer." He moved to behind the counter then and picked up a knife. "Well, let's start with our chopping course shall we? I've titled this section 'cucumbers and other long vegetables...'"


Extracts from several entries:


She was so stubborn. That was part of the reason he was in love with her. He knew he'd always fallen for 'strong' women. The kind of women who didn't take any crap from anyone. As soon as he'd met her he sensed that she was the same. At first he hoped, prayed, that he wouldn't fall in love with her. It was a complication that they really didn't need. And yet...as his feelings began to develop, he didn't regret what he felt for her for one moment. Because it was more than just the stubbornness with her.

Yes, she was strong. Yes, she was stubborn. Yes...she had one hell of a temper occassionally. But she was also so brave, so wise and sometimes...so vulnerable. He knew she hated showing that; that she should ever need the support of another person. She was just like everyone else, even if she didn't like admitting it.

He'd come to the conclusion a long time ago that she wasn't ready to pursue a relationship with him, even though he knew she was attracted to him. So he waited. And hoped that over time...she would come to realise that she was never alone.


They met for the first time in the temple of Amock. It was a great sign of respect from their elders that they allowed the ceremony to be taken place there - it was the most sacred of all temples.

He transversed the long corridor leading into the main hall, his parents behind him. Upon entering the hall, he observed five people. A man and a woman stood behind another figure in a cloak, which he knew to be his betrothed. Also present were the priest who would perform the bonding ceremony, and the bearer of the truth.

Surek's parents guided him to the correct position where he waited patiently with his hands clasped behind his back. His betrothed stepped forward, her head faced towards the floor so he could not see what she looked like. The priest began to speak, her voice strong yet containing a hint of ancient wisdom.

"T'Mara of Vulcan. You have come to meet your betrothed and confirm your bond with him. Do you vow to maintain this bond for the rest of your life?"

"I vow," she responded from behind the cloak, her voice low and unemotional. As it should be.

"Surek of Vulcan. You have come to meet your betrothed and confirm your bond with her. Do you vow to maintain this bond for the rest of your life?"

There was no prevarication. There was no need for it. "I vow."

The priest took a step back and nodded to the bearer of the truth. He stepped towards Surek and touched his hand. Guiding the young Vulcan, he showed him where to place his fingers on T'Mara's face. This meant, of course, that she had to raise her head and pull her cloak back.

Her face was dark, her hair even darker and she appeared to be in complete control of her emotions. Everything he could expect from a mate.

His fingers found their marks on her face, then the bearer did the same with her hands and Surek's face. This was the first time either of them would meld. Drawing his own hands away, the bearer touched them each lightly on the shoulder before retreating.

Surek attempted to maintain eye contact with T'Mara as they began to merge. Thoughts and ideas became one, every life experience was shared. No longer able to control them, his eyelids closed and he found himself somewhere else. Their parents nor the holy ones were there. It was a place where corporeal form was not required and utter logic was the only thing that was needed.



A pink neon sign reading 'Joe's Cafe' flashed through the window of his office, infusing the room with a pink glow and reflecting off the glass he was raising to his lips. With one jerk of his wrist the contents of the glass blazed a trail down his throat, warming his body and his spirit. It was the only way he seemed to be able to do either lately.

The name on the door to his office read 'Jack T. Allen'. The T stood for Terence, but he told anyone who asked that it stood for trouble. Yes, it was a cliche, but it happened to be a true one. Trouble seemed to be a natural part of his life. He could never avoid it.

Reaching for the bottle again, he paused when he heard a noise. Glancing up, he saw the shadowy outline of a visitor through the cloudy glass in the door. It looked distinctly like a woman, although he'd made that mistake once before after one too many shots. Quickly pushing the bottle and glass into the drawer in his desk, he settled back further into his chair, rested his feet up on the corner of the desk, and pushed his hat further back on his head. "Yeah?"

The door creaked open and his visitor stepped in. It was *definitely* a woman. Her skin was the colour of coffee ice cream and her hair was the colour of dark chocolate. She had lips that were begging to be kissed, and the kind of figure that made a man think twice about commitment.

Unfortunately her expression didn't look very inviting. She practically sneered down at him as she walked towards the desk. "Mr Allen?" she asked, sitting down without invitation, her tone implying that she hoped like hell he wasn't Mr Allen.

He was in love.

"Oh please," he insisted "call me Jack." He knew it would annoy her no end.

She glared at him. "I'm afraid *Mr Allen*, that as much as it disgusts me, I need your help."

Jack entwined his fingers over his stomach. "Well, that's pretty strange."

"What is?" she asked, clearly not caring at all about what was strange.

"Well usually people ask for my help before insulting me, not the other way round." He pulled his feet down from the desk and leant forward. "I'll tell you what, lady. If you drop this bitchy attitude of yours, then maybe...just maybe...I'll help you."


She sniffed the air as she stealthily crept along the edge of the river bank. Someone else was definitely out here with her. She'd surmised from the smell of smoke and burning metal that there'd been a crash, and five minutes ago she'd found the wreckage of a shuttle. There was no sign of any survivors, but then there was no sign of any bodies.

As she concentrated now, she could smell someone elses scent. They were obviously in the woods with her, but she didn't know if they were injured or not.

She whirled at the sound of something snapping behind her and came face to face with the intruder. He didn't look particularly fearsome. He was leaning against a tree heavily, obviously injured with blood encrusted over several places on his body. He seemed to be short of breath, but that didn't stop him from raising his weapon and pointing it at her.

Ha'Shana walked towards him and his grip tightened on his weapon.

"Don't be ridiculous!" she spat at him, her fury growing with each advancing step. His gaze latched onto hers and she could see the strength and defiance he had...not to mention the loveliest coloured iris' she had ever seen. She almost stopped walking. Lovely? She was using words like 'lovely' now?

Holding out her hand, she demanded that he hand over his weapon. He stared at her before eventually giving in and letting go of the phaser. He stood fully upright even though it was clearly difficult for him. Two seconds later he hit the floor.

She rushed over and knelt down beside him. "I'm Ha'Shana. Who are you?"

He winced, but produced a care-free grin for her. "I'm Ricky. And this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."


She lacked any social skills whatsoever. She was rude, blunt, and made no apologies for it. Steve couldn't quite figure out why he was attracted to her. Oh the external package was lovely to look at, but it wasn't just that. She was so different from the other women he'd dated; incredibly different especially from his last girlfriend. Lise had been warm, caring, giving...and Ana was almost the exact opposite.

So why was he attracted to her?

He growled at himself. This was not what he should be thinking about. Shaking his head, he forced himself to look at the words on the screen in front of him. It was no use. A headache had been building for the last two hours and by now the words were one big grey blur.

Annoyed, he switched off the screen, closed his eyes and began gently rubbing his forehead with his hand.

His inspiration had been somewhat lacking lately, and now it seemed to be gone completely. It had taken him a whole day just to write one sentence. It was so infuriating. He knew exactly how the story was going to end, it was just the getting there that was driving him mad. Why had he ever become a writer in the first place?

Because he loved it, that's why.

Unfortunately it didn't make him feel any better when he couldn't write.

Steve's thoughts, inevitably, returned to Ana. Maybe he should write a story about her, he thought with a grin, his headache beginning to dissipate. It might even be worth doing, but a romance story wasn't what he was expected to turn in by his deadline which was rapidly approaching.

The door to his room suddenly opened and Steve turned to see Ana enter. To be honest, he really didn't mind *her* barging in...although it would be nice if she asked occasionally.

"Hi Ana."

She didn't bother with a similar greeting. "I am in need of your assistance."

"Of course. What can I do?" He hated the way he turned into a lap dog whenever she was around, and yet at the same time he loved the feelings she created within him.

"I am contemplating about whether or not to write something, and I would appreciate learning from your...expertise."

Expertise? That was certainly the closest thing to a compliment he would ever receive from her. "Sure, here take a seat."

She stared at the chair and for a moment he thought she was going to take his meaning a little too literally. In the end however, she simply sat down.

He switched on the screen again and began explaining as best he could about what he was writing and what motivated him. She was suprisingly easy to talk to. She didn't interrupt unless she had a relevant question, which were always intelligent and well thought out.

And for the first time...he began to feel comfortable around her. He no longer harboured the thought that she might suddenly turn around and hit him, and somehow both of them seem to relax when he came to that silent revelation.

When the time came for her to leave, she stood quickly. "That was most informative Steven. I appreciate your assistance."

"Of course," he replied and watched as she walked towards the exit "Oh, but Ana? Do I get to read your work when it's finished?"

Ana paused, turned, and the tiniest of smiles appeared on her lips. "Perhaps," she replied, before turning away and walking out of the room.

Steven laughed. He couldn't help it.

Looking back towards the screen, he sat down and began to type.


Teresa observed the young man who was walking towards her. He was five foot eight point two inches tall. He had very dark hair, a medium build, and a smile on his face. He held out a hand to her which had all five digits. "Come on Teresa, see what I've found!" His voice contained a great deal of enthusiasm.

She cocked her head fifteen degrees to the right. "Why would I need to hold your hand to see what you have found?"

A frown appeared on his forehead, creating three small creases. "Fine. Don't take my hand. But you *have* to come and see what I've found." He lowered his appendage as he contined to speak.

He turned one hundred and eighty degrees and began to walk, the distance between each step of his feet being 14.2 inches. Teresa duly followed.

After a walking time of three minutes and twenty seven seconds through a foilage covered area, Grant stopped at the top of a small rise. "This is it..." he whispered as she reached his position five seconds later.

It was a canyon approximately two hundred and seven feet wide, and one hundred and thirty two feet deep. She considered the possibilities. It was likely that the canyon was caused by an asteroid or a comet striking the planet several million years ago, although she could also see some erosion that had no doubt been caused by the passage of time.

"Isn't is amazing?" Grant asked, an undignified amount of awe present in his voice.

"Not particularly. Such events occur frequently."

"Argh!" he exclaimed loudly, and Teresa rose her right eyebrow. "You drive me mad when you do that!"

"Do what?" she enquired.

"Nothing ever fazes you, Teresa. You find nothing amazing or extraordinary. You don't seem to appreciate anything at all."

She considered his words carefully, before looking back out across the canyon. "I see little point in finding this 'amazing'. It is something I have seen before, so it is hardly a new experience. And you are...incorrect."

"About what?"

"That I appreciate nothing. I appreciate our relationship."

His eyes became wide. "Our 'relationship'?"

"Yes." she stated, turning slightly to look back at him. "Although your conversational digressions are occasionally irrelevant and unwanted, you are an intelligent individual who often understands the subjects I discuss most."

Grant still seemed surprised. "Well...I...thank you Teresa. You're a good friend too."

Pondering his last words for a moment, she nodded then looked up at the sky. "Yes. Yes I suppose I would consider you a friend."


"Whose smart idea was it to post the results here?" Tom moaned, trying to find the title of his story on the list. It was no easy task considering that there were ten people queuing in front of him to have a look. He sighed in impatience.

"Neelix's, of course." B'Elanna replied, looking down at Tom's butt and very much appreciating the view.

Chakotay turned to face Kathryn after hearing their brief conversation. "I don't get it. I thought the whole point of this is that it was anonymous. I mean, if the winner sees their title at the top, won't we know who won by their reaction?"

Smiling, Kathryn crossed her arms. "I think that's the point Chakotay." She nodded towards Neelix who was a few feet away from the queue. "See how eager he is? He wants to know who won."

"I fail to see the relevance in discovering who has won, Captain. As I understand it, the 'fun' is in the taking part, not the winning."

"Seven! I didn't see you there. How long have you been queuing?"

"I have just joined."

"Ah." She leaned towards the younger woman slightly. "I must say Seven, I was quite surprised that you decided to write a story for the competition."

"The Doctor insisted that I participate. Though reluctant at first as where to start, I consulted-"

"Harry!" Kathryn quickly guessed, just as he joined the rear of the queue.

Seven nodded. "Yes, that is correct Captain. How did you know?"

Looking around Seven to smile at Harry, Kathryn replied "Oh, just an educated guess." Harry blushed.

"What are you implying Captain?" Tuvok asked as he stood behind Harry.

"Well...I mean it's obvious which of us wrote which story." she answered, waving an arm at everyone.

"Are you saying we're predictable Kathryn?"

She turned to look at Chakotay, not even noticing that he used her name in front of the others. "Don't knock it bucko. I know which story *you* wrote." Her hands came up to rest on her hips without her even realising she was doing it. Tom chuckled just before B'Elanna elbowed him in the ribs.

Her First Officer offered a slow, dangerous smile. "Really? Well I remember reading a story about a rose-"

"Don't you dare say another word!"

Chakotay laughed lightly.

Tom looked back towards the front of the queue, and finally noticed that almost everyone in front of him had gone. Only two people remained - Nicoletti and Vorik. He turned back to face the others. "Umm...guys, sorry, we can move forward a bit."

A chorus of 'ohs' followed his statement and they all trundled forward a few paces. Tom got the distinct impression that if he stopped suddenly they'd suffer from the domino effect. It would almost be worth doing...

"Don't even think about it Tom," B'Elanna hissed. He grinned.

"Actually, now that I think about it, where *is* the Doctor?" Kathryn asked.

Seven spoke. "I believe he is in sickbay treating a patient Captain. I heard that Ensign Ayala fell and hurt his back."

Tom couldn't help but reply. "Hmm. I heard that he slipped a disk trying out one of the love scenes someone wrote with Jenny."

Small chuckles were all the response he received.

"Strange. Did he enter the competition?"

"I do not believe he did." Tuvok replied.

Kathryn nodded but frowned. "I would have expected him to."

Chakotay nudged her slightly with his elbow. "Maybe he thought he wouldn't be able to win against all the wonderful competition."

"Wonderful? Don't you think you're being a little egotistical?"

"As opposed to the Doctor?"

Nicoletti moved from the queue and they each took a step forward. Tom tried to look over Vorik's shoulder but it wasn't any use.

"Mr Paris..." Tuvok called from the back of the queue. "That is hardly polite."

"Sorry," he called back, then muttered "Vulcans." As soon as he realised who he was standing behind he swore. "Sorry!" he exclaimed again, wondering how many times he could get away with apologising and not look stupid.

Vorik however, appeared to be paying no attention. He turned away from the results. "Fascinating," he said, before walking away.

"Oh you've *got* to be kidding me."

"What is it Tom?" B'Elanna queried.

"Vorik won."


"I swear! He said 'fascinating' just before he left. What else could that mean?"

"Well don't keep us waiting Mr Paris," Kathryn instructed "tell us the title of the story that won."

"Oh yes, of course." Turning back he stepped forward and looked up at the list. The rest of them were too impatient and quickly swarmed around him. They all spoke at the same time.

"Cucumbers And Melons Sang The Bells Of St Clements?!"

"I remember reading that."

"So do I."

"I voted for it."

"Me too..."

"You can't tell me Vorik wrote that!"

"No, it definitely doesn't seem like his style..."

Just then the doors to the mess hall swished open and a new comer stepped in. "Ah hello. Oh, I see the results are up. Wonderful!" He walked over to them and the group parted, although they still clustered around him. He looked up at the results. And smiled.

"Doctor..." Chakotay began, baffled "...don't tell me *you* wrote..."

The Doctor turned to face him and sniffed. "I don't see why not. I have a very good imagination, not to mention my own experiences in the area of love."

"But...where did you get the idea?"

"From Mr Neelix's last show. Remember what he was chopping?" At the murmured recollections he continued "Well...lets just say that talking about love while holding a cucumber and a melon turned out to be rather inspirational for me."


Chakotay began speaking as soon as he entered her quarters, a padd in his left hand. "You know, I've been reading this story again."

"Really?" Kathryn asked, sitting on the edge of her couch, watching as he slowly walked towards her.

"Yes. And there are a couple of things that bother me."

"Such us?" she wondered, not drawing back as he knelt down in front of her.

He looked down the padd and scrolled through the text. "Well it seems clear to me that he would *never* hurt her. And if she ever does feel alone it's entirely her own choice."

She nodded, eyes faced down. "She knows."

"And that if she ever does feel lonely she knows a friend is only a door away."

Smiling a little sadly and forcing herself to look at him, she answered "Yes. She knows that too."

"Good. Now I just have one question."

"Go on."

"Throbbing love muscle?"



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